One of the boys


One of the boys

Part 1: The Tryouts
As the father of three girls, ages 13, 11 and 11, I was encouraged when, at different times, they all tried out for different sports. The usual suspects of soccer, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, gymnastics and softball were all attempted at one time or another. There were varying levels of success, but the main point was to get out and try, be fit and make new friends. I found that the social element is particularly big with my girls.
What surprised me was when one daughter told me she wanted to play baseball. I said, “You mean softball?”
“No, I want to play baseball, with all of the boys.”
Now keep in mind that my daughter, Sasha, stood about 4-foot-3½ and weighed maybe 45 pounds — with weights in her pockets.
I wondered, to myself, “Why? Will they allow that? She could be overwhelmed. How will the boys treat her? What will the coaches think? What if she got hit by the ball and started crying?” 
There was plenty more to think but I said, “OK, let’s sign you up. And we have to start practicing. We’ll play catch and then go to the batting cages.” 
So that is what we did. We played catch on the side of the house, then she would practice alone when I couldn’t be there. She would throw the ball off the house 100 times before she came in for dinner. Keep in mind that she didn’t always catch it, and that sometimes she missed the target, but she was trying to get better. 
Tryouts came, and each player got three pitches to swing at to show what they could do. At the tryouts, I overheard one boy ask, “Why is there a girl here?” He wasn’t mean, he just wanted to know. Sasha didn’t hear him as she walked to the plate for her chance. 
She got in her stance and was ready for her first pitch. Tentative swing … and a miss. She seemed a little unsure and overmatched, but she had two more chances to show her stuff. The coach told her to get ready and the second pitch was on the way. Swing and a miss. 
Now, I am a man of somewhat tattered faith, and this is when I decided to make a deal with God. There are no atheists in a foxhole … nor when your daughter is trying to compete with the boys! Please, just let her foul the last one off! Anything but a swing and a miss.
Sasha got in her stance for the final time and tapped the plate with her bat. Third pitch was on the way. Sasha swung the bat with the violence only used when trying to destroy a piñata. Then, it happened, she trickled a ground ball to the left side. But in the force of her big cut the momentum swung Sasha around, and she got twisted up like a pretzel. As she started to run she stumbled, tried to catch her steps, but it was too late. 
Face plant. It got quiet as everyone was stunned at what they had just seen.
I cringed waiting for something. The boys making fun, the coaches babying her, Sasha wilting in a pool of tears. 
But that didn’t happen. Sasha slowly got up on her knees, her long hair over her face, and when she brushed her hair away she had the biggest smile. She did it. She hit the ball!
“Way to go, Sasha. Good swing. Now run it out and get back in line," yelled the coach. And that is what Sasha did.
I looked around and everyone was enjoying the moment. People thought it was awesome. A girl trying out for Little League. Other parents started to clap and cheer her on. The other boys either congratulated her or ignored her, both good things.
And in the end Sasha proved that she could be one of the boys if she wanted … even while she was a girl. The only girl in her town’s Little League.

More to come ...

At The Yard: Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino

NBC Sports Philadelphia

At The Yard: Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino

You heard Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino in NBC Sports Philadelphia's documentary "World Champions: The Story of the '08 Phillies." 

Now, in this special edition of At the Yard, you get to listen to Jim Salisbury's interviews with those three players in their entirety, including the parts that didn't make the documentary. All three go through that magical season in vivid detail and relive the greatest moments from that postseason. 

Subscribe and rate At The Yard: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

Chase Utley:
1:30 - What made that team special?
4:00 - Memories from the postseason.
6:30 - World Series Game 5.
13:00 - What were the celebrations like?
18:00 - His speech on the day of the parade.

Jimmy Rollins:
1:30 - Did he really believe the Phillies were the team to beat in 2007?
8:00 - What was the moment he thought they were good enough to win it all?
13:00 - Playoff moments.
19:30 - Did he have a preference of facing the Rays or the Red Sox?
24:00 - Terrible field conditions in Game 5.
31:00 - Moment they won the World Series.
33:30 - Chase's speech.

Shane Victorino:
1:00 - Shane's journey to the big leagues.
5:00 - The importance of the 2007 season.
12:30 - Playoff memories.
16:00 - Preference facing Tampa Bay or Boston?
24:00 - Moment they won the World Series.
29:30 - Charlie Manuel was the perfect manager.

Jillian Mele: 'If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it'

Jillian Mele: 'If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it'

"Who did you sleep with to get this job?"

That was said to my face by a former co-worker at the start of our first day working together.  I was new at the station, young and excited to prove myself, and I knew it would be a long day. I had this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and I was fighting back tears, but the last thing I wanted to show was weakness. I knew I had to be strong -- for me.

I was a professional that day and we ended up doing a great story together, but the emotion was still reeling inside of me. We got in the news vehicle to drive an hour and a half back to the station and that same person said, "Wow. I thought you were just another blonde who didn't know her ass from her face but you actually know what you're doing. You are good." Was that supposed to be a compliment? Whatever it was supposed to be, I used it as fuel. I had a passion for this business ever since my internship at CSN years prior to this experience, and I wasn't going to let anyone get in my way.

I've spent time in both hard news and sports and as I transitioned into sports full time, one of the biggest challenges I found is having a professional relationship with athletes -- it's a delicate thing to do. More often than I would like to tell you, married athletes have asked me out, while other athletes have asked me to send them photos over the internet. Social media makes accessing people extremely easy, and I have sent countless messages over the years saying basically the same thing: "Thank you, I am flattered, but I am seeing someone," even if I was single. As a young intern in this business 12 years ago, I never knew how hard it would be to manage those relationships, but more than that, manage how it makes me feel.

As I've grown in the world of TV, the comments have started to roll in fast and furious, and the popularity of social media has certainly been a factor. People feel the constant need to comment on everything from my body to my clothes, my hair, my shoes, my teeth (yes, my teeth) and my opinions. People tell me exactly what they think, good or bad, and most of the time I like the fact that people are honest; it keeps me in check and makes me realize the impact I have on their lives. At the end of the day, I am a person with feelings just like you, so when someone tells me on Twitter that I should be fired from my job because I am awful, I'll be honest, it stings. I work endless hours when needed, I ask really tough questions because it is necessary, and I handle criticism because let's face it, for every bad comment there are about 20 good ones that truly mean something.

I love when parents tell me that I am a role model for their daughter, helping her see that she can do anything she wants, even in a male dominated industry like sports. To me, that is everything and makes it all worth it. I want to be a strong role model and continue to pave the way for women in sports, as other women have done before me.

Someone once asked who my daddy knew because I could not possibly have gotten a job in TV on my own. I was told I didn’t deserve it. I proudly told that person that my dad has a salvage yard and my mom is a nurse and they have supported me every step of the way on this journey but this, I did this on my own. My favorite quote puts it in perspective and has gotten me through many tough times as it will continue to do for years to come:

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." -- A League of Their Own.